A Labour of Love

Early Sunday Morning

This past Sunday I left home very early to spend a glorious Indian Summer day on a bus with a group of local “foodies.”  Nearly fifty of us were on a Dairy Farm Field Trip organized and hosted by Slow Food Edmonton’s Valerie Rodgers.  In addition to being a committed foodie and blogger, Valerie teaches junior high students how to enjoy and prepare REAL food.  During the ride I couldn’t help but listen in as she talked about her devotion to bringing the experience of good, clean and fair (Slow Food’s slogan) local food to her students.  Given a heavy course load teaching grades 7,8 & 9 language arts and a literacy class (mamma mia!!!), Valerie’s cooking classes, both scheduled and extracurricular, are nothing short of a labour of love.

This was the essence of the field trip.  Each stop on Valerie’s thoughtful itinerary was a snapshot into the labours of love created and nurtured with exceptional skill, perseverance, and fortitude by each of the artisans and their families. 

Jan Schalkwyk’s Sylvan Star Cheese features world class, award-winning goudas made in the Dutch tradition.   His meticulous dedication to his craft results an annual production of between 30,000 to 40,000 kilos of cheese, while tending to the politics of health inspectors naive to the science of working with fresh, unpasteurized, live cultured milk.

Down the road, we visited Bles-Wold Dairies and the home of their famous yogurt.  Tinie Eilers began making yogurt to provide a healthy sugar stabilizing breakfast for her diabetic daughter.  A mother’s commitment to her child’s health became a hobby shared with a neighbor, to a product now being sold in grocery and specialty food stores across the province and soon in BC. 

The sun started to break as we rolled into the Village at Pigeon Lake to dine at The Eco Café.  Chef and co-owner Tim Woods is committed to living his yoga “off the mat,” with an attention to “green” means in culinary and kitchen management – using Alberta ingredients and environmental sustainable practices – and to the ethics with which he treats his staff and customers.  I remember being in the café a few summers ago, their busy season with the cottage crowd, and reading a sign that said good food takes time, and if customers were in a hurry, mind their manners, don’t harass the staff, and to consider taking their business elsewhere if they couldn’t wait.  It left an impression!

Given this was a Slow Food event, there was plenty of time for conversation and reflection.  What struck me as I considered this “labour of love” theme, is how we all know it when we’ve got it.  We feel it, we taste it, we hear it, we smell it.  We celebrate it, we applaud it, we tip it, we blog it. 

We also know when someone’s going through the motions, when that spark of energy, that vital something, is missing.  

And I know many of us know this love of which we labour to be THE BIG LOVE for which we are the conduits, the hollow reeds through which Source, God, Goddess, Spirit, Tao, Grace – whatever we name it – becomes manifest, “Thy Will be done.”

I’m especially drawn to how Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet writing in 1923, described it in his classic, The Prophet.  When asked by the ploughman “speak to us of work,” the Prophet replies:

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.

For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life’s procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.

When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.

Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?

Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.

But I say to you that when you work you fulfil a part of earth’s furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,

And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,

And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life’s inmost secret.

But if you in your pain call birth an affliction and the support of the flesh a curse written upon your brow, then I answer that naught but the sweat of your brow shall wash away that which is written.

You have been told also life is darkness, and in your weariness you echo what was said by the weary.

And I say that life is indeed darkness save when there is urge,

And all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,

And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,

And all work is empty save when there is love;

And when you work with love you bind yourself to yourself, and to one another, and to God.

And what is it to work with love?

It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,

And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.

Often have I heard you say, as if speaking in sleep, “he who works in marble, and finds the shape of his own soul in the stone, is a nobler than he who ploughs the soil.

And he who seizes the rainbow to lay it on a cloth in the likeness of man, is more than he who makes the sandals for our feet.”

But I say, not in sleep but in the over-wakefulness of noontide, that the wind speaks not more sweetly to the giant oaks than to the least of all the blades of grass;

And he alone is great who turns the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.

Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.

And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.

And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

Beginning with my first glimpse of the day and throughout I was touched by how this BIG LOVE creates its own labour of love, moment by moment.

About Katharine Weinmann

living and leading with courage, clarity, compassion and creativity
This entry was posted in Community, Vocation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Labour of Love

  1. I love Kahil Gibran too – I think I may have told you that. I have all of his books and The Prophet is dog eared.
    Gorgeous pics… now add the one of you.
    Lovely day, and lovely perspective.

  2. heatherplett says:

    What a lovely way to spend a day! I’m inspired!

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